Thank you for that informative and mostly balanced Mark Barrett article about Buncombe’s new Pratt & Whitney/Raytheon F-35-parts factory [“Controversial Choices: Debating the Pratt & Whitney Project,” Jan. 20, Xpress]. However, there were areas where Mr. Barrett’s reporting was not so balanced. They include:
1. His conclusion that “opposition appears to be well short of the numbers that would be needed to persuade [county] commissioners to change course.” Yet Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard got over 55% of the vote in the Buncombe County Democratic primary in 2020, according to USA Today, and those candidates all wanted to drastically cut the military budget. This would have likely included the $1.5 trillion F-35 program.
So many of those voters, [34,461] to be exact, could be possible recruits by the Reject Raytheon Coalition. There’s no great hurry to mobilize them because the plant can be stopped at any time in its construction or production, and county commissioners can be voted out of office every two to four years.
2. Mr. Barrett cites Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman’s contention “that rejecting the plant would have no ‘direct bearing’ on military spending,” yet doesn’t provide an alternative perspective. The national Democratic Party has a strong minority that’s in favor of drastically cutting the military budget as is proven by the 34% of its voters supporting Sanders, Warren or Gabbard in the overall Democratic primary totals. A Gallup poll conducted in February 2020 reports that 51% of Democrats think that the U.S. spends too much on defense.
Buncombe’s rejection of the Raytheon plant would add power to this movement — especially if it could garner coverage by the national media. If for some reason, the Reject Raytheon Coalition is unable to mobilize the tens of thousands of Sanders/Warren/Gabbard voters in Buncombe County, there’s still one saving grace. As Mr. Barrett points out, only 20% of the plant production will be used to make the F-35 parts.
Does that mean that if America uses our F-35 parts on one of the planes to fight unnecessary or immoral wars, we Buncombe citizens will only be 20% responsible for the carnage? Keep in mind that 20% of anything harmful is still 100% harmful.
— Lorrie Streifel
Editor’s note: We always appreciate receiving feedback from our readers. Regarding the points raised in the letter, writer Mark Barrett offers this response: “It is speculative to say support for Sanders, Warren and Gabbard will translate into county residents persuading commissioners to withdraw their welcome of Pratt & Whitney, which would involve reneging on an agreement to provide incentives. Omitting their vote totals in the Democratic primary does not indicate a lack of balance. Even one of the opponents said in the story he thinks the incentives are ‘a done deal.’
“The story does not explore the consequences of possible national media coverage of a change in stance by commissioners. It does provide an alternative perspective to Newman’s by quoting plant opponents as saying the commissioners’ vote bolsters the military-industrial complex, explaining why they believe that and why they object.”